PaganStudio Teaching

While I find exhibition and research work outside the university to be exciting and fulfilling, it is the academic setting that provides the best opportunities to learn and challenge myself and others towards greater potential and excellence. My teaching experience in academic institutions in Turkey, Europe and the US contributes significantly to my artistic vision and professional practice. Pedagogical engagement and interaction with students and colleagues has helped me stay immersed in various media, which, in turn, enhances my critical lens on both issues and technology. The opportunity to teach the ever-changing discipline of design in the context of visual arts at a major research university provides a rare chance to delve deeply into an area that permeates almost every aspect of contemporary life. The responsibility of creating a curriculum for learning interaction design and digital publication practices, as well as designing a practicum class, requires an ability to juggle fast-paced change alongside academic rigor. I convey to my students the importance of holding these (sometimes opposing) forces, simultaneously, in order to fulfill professional and academic aspirations.

Art and art education are intricately related, and, in turn, connected to the surrounding cultural and material environment. I have always viewed this tripartite interaction, driven by creative commons of the scientific and the digital realm, as a natural one. I gain tremendous satisfaction from conceiving of an art and design pedagogy, which references local contexts, yet addresses issues on a global scale.

Despite skepticism in mass culture about the effectiveness of university education in the age of digital communication, I find great value in a liberal arts education. As digital technology industries take the lead in dictating ways of doing and thinking, academic education suffers. Approaching technology from an artistic and academic perspective renders it accessible and usable. Beyond this, studying digital art necessitates creativity and process, important tools for personal and professional development and growth.

I started teaching shortly after obtaining my master’s degree in the early days of the Internet. Over the past eleven years, I have had the chance to teach at a number of different international institutions. Regardless of teaching format, my main consideration has always been to respect the free flow of information in the digital realm, while extracting and creating new meanings. This process requires research, contextualization, problem-solving and presentation, as well as ongoing interaction with students.

My work can be described as research driven design in artistic contexts. During my time teaching at Rutgers University, I have benefited tremendously from the university’s extensive and diverse research network, support and facilities. Thus, I have managed to find opportunities to connect my work with other liberal arts disciplines, and have brought these connections with other departments in the university into the classroom. I find this convergence of disciplines to be an effective and inspirational pedagogical resource, and I gain great satisfaction from the convergence between my professional and teaching practices.

On a practical level, I divide my teaching efforts into five phases: lectures, assignments, one-on-one feedback, documentation and presentation. A considerable amount of the time and energy it takes to teach a course goes into preparing and presenting lectures. After teaching many iterations of the same courses, I have found that the greatest potential in teaching emerges at the moment of lecturing. I believe that lecturing is one of the best performative actions that an artist-scholar can delve into.

The main characteristic of an assignment is determined by its methodology. I define assignment briefs by framing them through creative limitations. Inspired by early Bauhaus practices, I believe that restrictions in design processes evoke aesthetic potentials. If a course I am teaching is designed for project development, the challenge is to design a work-flow for the students, which comprises research, concept development, preproduction, production and presentation, while drawing out creativity.

I aim to teach my students that art must be practiced, studied, and held in active consciousness at all times. Thus, one-on-one interaction with the students cannot be limited to class or school hours. Online media activities such as blogging are crucial cultural contact points to serve and observe student progress. Office hours are good but also limited in structure for any meaningful artistic and critical feedback. Today, the cultural environment that I described above–the tripartite interaction of art, education and environment–is established online through social networks, as well as departmental gatherings, such as openings or panel critic sessions.

I place tremendous value on documentation of work, and I believe it is critical for archival purposes and to serve as resource material for the coming generations. Since I began teaching, I have archived student work from all classes I have taught. On the teaching section of PaganStudio, you can see many samples of student work from the past five years of my teaching at Mason Gross School of the Arts, Rutgers University.